Cultural Day Festival Enlightens Students About the Diverse FLHS Community

As firecrackers pop, and smoke is released through the creaks and cracks of the school, lights and streamers fill the skies. Swinging lanterns glow as the rhythmic music takes the floor, flourishing notes that fill the air. A red fierceful dragon sways its body through the lines of posters to then burst out of the auditorium doors, to welcome the students of FLHS to the cultural day festival.

Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Spanish classes have contributed together to present in the auditorium to bring all the students a new experience to the different and unique cultures in the FLHS community.

“Okay so we started this international cultural event before the pandemic,” Spanish and Latin teacher Ms. Gutierrez said. “We used to do the cultural exchange with the other language classes but we never actually did it in the auditorium, so this would be the first year that we got the opportunity to hold the cultural exchange festival in the auditorium.”

Ms. Gutierrez additionally discussed how this cultural exchange was not originally a large inclusive event, but instead occurred between two language teachers in the past.

“We did the cultural exchange like 4-5 years ago and I started it with Ms. Kwon the Korean teacher,” Ms. Gutierrez said. “We used to do Korean and Spanish cultural exchanges with our classes. We used to switch our classes, so Ms. Kwon’s class would come to my class and my class would go to hers. This meant that her students would learn about the Spanish culture, and my students went to her class and learned about the Korean culture.”

In a study conducted by Drexel University, when students work together collaboratively, they are able to maximize their educational experience by demonstrating the material to others, while also improving their social and interpersonal skills.

“The cultural festival kind of forced me to be more familiar with my own poster I worked on, which was about Colombia,” sophomore Andreana Wu said. “I had to present it to other students so I also felt closer and more familiar with the Colombian culture.”

Clinical professor of teacher education at the University of Maryland Jean Snell  said that “there is a richness that comes from students working side by side with others who are not of the same cookie-cutter.”

“Oh absolutely,” Spanish teacher Mr. Ramirez said. “It’s nice for the school community and school culture that we’re aware of all the different cultures that exist here at Francis Lewis. It’s a good way for us to get to know one another to learn about one another.”

Students showed motivation and determination within the students had really shined and showed as they participated in the cultural day festival, according to Ms. Gutierrez.

“I like that I saw them very motivated and willing to learn everything,” Ms. Gutierrez said. “I think it was a nice experience for them because they got to actually learn about the different cultures, and how they celebrate throughout the year in many different types of festivals.”

Mr. Ramirez has explained that this festival has brought students together and allowed him to express his culture to others as a language teacher.

“I love my job, I love being a language teacher, and I love sharing my culture with others, especially to my students,” Mr. Ramirez said. “So it’s not just about that, I think that exposing students to other people of different cultures is crucial, so that they can see how similar we are. I think that’s the biggest thing; it’s just a lot of labels we put on one another and then when we sit down to get to really know about one another, we pretty much realize we are the same, we’re all human beings.”

A study conducted by the Go Guardian Team states how we can all strive to create culturally diverse safe spaces that encourage, welcome, and celebrate our differences. Cultural diversity in the classroom involves celebrating those differences and creating a culture of inclusion and acceptance among students and their school community.

“Yeah I could agree to that,” Mr. Ramirez said.  “You are able to acknowledge the differences but at the same time there’s differences that we all share with one another.”